Sto-Rox star Paul Jones graduates early
There was no ceremony when Paul Jones graduated from Sto-Rox High School on Dec. 22. There were no classmates to join him, either. Jones even said that his graduation hasn't really hit him yet.
But it probably will on Mon., Jan. 11 -- Jones' first day of classes as a Penn State freshman.
Like many top college football prospects continue to do, Jones, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Sto-Rox quarterback, is enrolling early at Penn State and joining the football team for winter workouts and spring practice.
In doing so, Jones became the first student in Sto-Rox history to graduate early, though he says he'll come back to walk with the rest of his high school classmates in June. But by then, Jones most likely will have completed 15 college credits, a full spring-practice schedule with the Nittany Lions and at least four months of life at college.
"It's gonna be crazy," Jones said.
The idea for Jones to enroll early came about last January, when Jones, a four-star prospect rated as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the country on Rivals.com, verbally committed to Penn State over scholarship offers from Pitt, Iowa, Stanford and Virginia Tech, among others. Right then, Penn State coaches told Jones what they had in mind for him.
"They let me have like 10 minutes, I think, then said, 'We want you to graduate early,' " Jones said. "I said, 'Sounds fine with me.' They called my school, and we figured out the ways to do it."
Jones chose to enroll in summer school at Sto-Rox to earn enough credits to graduate in December. He spent several hours a day, Monday through Thursday, taking classes in July and August. He was able to complete the necessary course work while rehabilitating the ankle he broke in June and resuming football activity in August.
"He was very focused on it," said former Sto-Rox coach Jason Ruscitto, who coached Jones through his career with the Vikings. "He prioritized his time. He was studying up at (training) camp and did everything to make sure he qualified. He did a good job with that."
Despite missing several games with the ankle injury, Jones threw for 1,667 yards and 16 touchdowns this fall before graduating with a 3.5 grade-point average. Penn State advisers helped make his class schedule for the spring semester, complete with courses in art history and psychology.
Getting to those classes on time, however, will be a bit more hectic. Jones is playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 9 in San Antonio. He'll fly back the next day, spend about an hour at home with his family before he and his dad will drive to State College.
Jones says he's one of several early enrollees in this Penn State recruiting class. He'll room with Kevin Haplea, a tight end from New Jersey, and the two have talked about who's bringing the TV.
"My mom's been going shopping," Jones said. "She showed me an ironing board and an iron, but I don't know what else I have yet."
Jones also has spent the past month lifting with Adam DiMichele, the former Sto-Rox quarterback who played with Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League this fall.
He has been forced to skip the Sto-Rox basketball season, a sacrifice that hurts.
"Yeah, I didn't play this year. It's been tough," he said. "They lost a couple games I know they shouldn't have lost. The funny part is, my mom was saying, is seeing me sitting over on the side getting so mad over it. That's the worst part."
Football is Jones' game, however, and Ruscitto said he could make a major impact at Penn State.
"I'm sure that he's going to have a learning curve, and he'll have to get acclimated to the speed of the game," Ruscitto said. "Once he does that, I think he'll be fine. He's a bright young man. He'll put in the necessary time; he's always done that. He has the chance to be a special player for them. A lot of people would love to have that opportunity."